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3 Online Crimes That Can Land You in Prison

The web can feel like a world that is separate from real life, but electronic activity can have serious consequences, like landing you in jail or prison. You may rely on anonymity and hide behind avatars and accounts unassociated with you, but things you do online can be traced back to you and charged as a crime. If you're convicted, your cell will be hell -- very real, very small, very crowded and smelly -- and you'll have limited access to the web. So, here are three crimes not to commit online.

Another day, another hack. And while the target might not be as well-known as Sony or Anthem Blue Cross, the VerticalScope hack could have exposed personal information for an estimated 45 million users on 1,100 online forums.

What does this mean for the users involved, for VerticalScope, and the hackers? Let's take a look.

For some, the internet is a venue for people to air the thoughts they would never publicly say in real life. Others see social media as an escape from the bigotry they face on a day-to-day basis. Balancing the free speech interests of some with the safe space interests of others is often an impossible task.

But the European Commission thinks it has an answer. The EU announced it is working with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others, to create a code of conduct for social media posting in an effort to curb online hate speech in Europe. Europe has very different free speech protections than the United States, so could a similar ban on hate speech work in America?

Yes. Probably not. Maybe. Odds aren't good. In your case? Who knows? I'd say there's a 50-50 chance. Wanna bet?

As with most legal questions, whether you'll do hard time for playing a little online poker or daily fantasy sports will depend on a variety of factors, not the least of which is what state you live. Here's a quick look at federal and state online gambling laws, as well as which bets are (legally) safe to place.

We're all on the Internet now, which means criminals are, too. And some unwitting Internet users can become criminals if they're not careful.

In many ways, law enforcement and the general public are still figuring out how to best utilize the Internet, what's out there, and what constitutes criminal behavior online. So here are some of the biggest Internet crime questions facing cops, hackers, and the rest of us:

As we have explained here before: Facebook threats can get you arrested; Twitter threats can get you arrested; and even one-word text threats can get you arrested. So as teens abandon these modes of communication in favor of the image messaging app Snapchat, it's probably a good idea to let them know that yes, Snapchat threats can get your arrested.

Modesto, California police arrested two California high school students after they posted a video on Snapchat, aimed at a black classmate, complete with noose, the words "You must die motherf***er," and an image of a gun being fired at the viewer. Here's what the students are charged with:

Are There Illegal Internet Search Terms?

You can search pretty much whatever you want online -- searching for information is not a crime. But certain searches are monitored and certain words will trigger suspicion and investigations, and if you engage in illegal activity online, that is a crime.

You can search the words "kiddie porn" for example -- how else will you find information on the topic? -- but you absolutely cannot download the stuff. People can and do get arrested for their illegal online activities. But it's important to distinguish between suspicious searches and illegal activities. Googling the word "murder" does not make you a killer, and this principle extends to terror, porn, and more.

Every time you turn around, some company or the government is getting hacked. Or someone you know is having their credit card information or entire identity stolen.

From accessing a computer without permission to stealing personal information and online bullying, there are a range of computer crimes that are often collectively referred to as "hacking." So what are the possible penalties if hackers get caught?

'Tis the season for furiously clicking that "Track Package" button in sales confirmation emails. Whether you're worried about outgoing gifts making it to their destination on time or excited about an incoming present, tracking a package online can become a daily or even hourly obsession.

And it can get you arrested, if you happen to be tracking a package full of drugs from China.

Over the weekend, University of Illinois Chicago engineering student Jabari Dean took to the comments section of a hip hop culture website and threatened to shoot students and staff at the University of Chicago. That threat led the FBI to close the school's campus Monday, and led to Dean's arrest the same day.

It's a reminder that law enforcement takes online threats seriously, especially when they involve campus shootings.